MEANING OF LIFE SPAN DEVELOPMENTAL CHANGES
The term development means a progressive series of changes that occur as a result of maturation and experience. To understand the pattern of development, certain fundamental and predictable facts must be taken into consideration. They are
Attitude, habits and patterns of behaviour established during the early years of age, determine to a large extent how individuals will be able to adjust to life as they grow older. The foundations laid during the first two years of life are the most critical.
Maturation & learning play important roles in development. Maturation is the unfolding of the individual's interest traits -functions which are common to the human race such as crawling, sitting, walking, etc.
Learning is development that comes from exercise and efforts on the individual's part- these are specific to the individual like writing, driving, swimming, etc.
These are orderly pattern of physical, motor, speech, intellectual development eg: laws of developmental direction -the 'cephalocaudal law' which maintains that development spreads over the body from head to feet and the 'proximodistal law' which maintains that development spreads outward from the central axis of the body to the extremities.
Every person is biologically and genetically different from every other, even in case of identical twins and there is evidence that differences increase rather than decrease as children grow from childhood into adolescence and eventually to old age.
During the growing up years, the patterns are marked by period of equilibrium, when individuals adapt or adjust easily to environmental demands and as a result, make good personal and social adjustments. The other is periods of disequilibrium, when they experience difficulties in adaptation and as a result make poor personal and social adjustments.
There is evidence that each period in the life span has associated with it certain developmental hazards or problems, Which can be physical, psychological, social or environmental in origin and these inevitably involve adjustment problems. Awareness of these hazards will help people to cope with these and adjust better.
Stimulation in the form of support and encouragement given to children by parents and elders will aid development in children in the desired direction.
Individual's development and behaviour is moulded to conform to cultural standard and ideals and life style. Changes in these standards affect the development pattern.
Every cultural group expects its members to master certain essential skills and acquire certain approved pattern. These are referred to as 'developmental tasks' - a task which arises at or about a certain period in the life of the individual. Successful achievement of these tasks will lead to happiness and to success with later tasks.
These beliefs about physical and psychological characteristics affect the judgment of others as well as their self evaluation. This is true of the traditional beliefs about sex differences and the cultural stereotype of males & females at all ages. So long as they persist, they have a profound influence on the developmental pattern.
After a brief note on the meaning of development and pattern of development of let us try to understand the different stages in the life span and the developmental tasks during the life span.
Stages in the life span
a) Prenatal period - conception to birth
b) Infancy - birth to the end of the second week
c) Babyhood - end of the second week to
end of the second year.
d) Early childhood - two to six years
e) Late childhood - Six to ten years or twelve years
Puberty or preadolescence - Ten or twelve to thirteen or
g) Early adulthood - eighteen to forty years
h) Middle age - forty to sixty years
i) Old age - sixty to death.
Learning to take solid foods
Learning to walk
Learning to talk
Learning to control the elimination of body wastes
Learning sex differences and sexual modesty
Getting ready to read
Learning to distinguish right and wrong and beginning to develop a conscience
Learning physical skills necessary for ordinary games
Building a wholesome attitude toward oneself as growing organism
Learning to get along with age-mates
Beginning to develop appropriate masculine or feminine social roles
Developing fundamental skills in reading, writing, and calculating
Developing concepts necessary for everyday living
Developing a conscience, a sense of morality, and a scale of values
Developing attitudes toward social groups and institution
Achieving personal independence
Achieving new and more mature relations with agemates of both sexes
Achieving a masculine or feminine social role
Accepting one's physique and using one's body effectively
Desiring, accepting, and achieving socially responsible behavior
Achieving emotional independence from parents and other adults
Preparing for an economic career
Preparing for marriage and family life
Acquiring a set of values and an ethical system as a guide to behavior - developing an ideology
Getting started in an occupation
Selecting a mate
Learning to live with a marriage partner
Starting a family
Managing a home
Taking on civic responsibility
Finding a congenial social group
Achieving adult civic and social responsibility
Assisting teenage children to become responsible and happy adults
Developing adult leisure-time activities
Relating oneself to one's spouse as a person
Accepting and adjusting to the physiological changes of middle age
Reaching and maintaining satisfactory performance in one's occupational career
Adjusting to aging parents
Adjusting to decreasing physical strength and health
Adjusting to retirement and reduced income
Adjusting to death of spouse
Establishing an explicit affiliation with members of one's age group
Establishing satisfactory physical living arrangements
Adapting to social roles in a flexible way
Having learnt the pattern of development, stages in the life span and
developmental tasks during the life span, let us go into details of each stage, starting from prenatal period, which is the first stage in the life span to late childhood.